Northern Vietnam cuisine is all about subtlety, fresh herbs and little heavy cooking. If you are a weight-conscious traveler, you will love the fact that its calorie count is measly. With its mastery use of herbs and spices and availability of a wide range of fresh ingredients, northern Vietnam is one of the most appealing destinations in Asia for foodie travelers.
It is impossible to talk about Northern Vietnam cuisine without mentioning Hanoi food, the gastronomical capital of the north. Located on the Red River Delta, Hanoi is one of the most fruitful regions in Northern Vietnam, paving the way for its reputation as a foodie’s paradise.
Hanoi prides itself on the national obsession of pho, bun cha-the dish that suits to entertain a president of a free world, and the highly versatile bun. The city not only excels in producing the finest noodle dishes that make up the bucket list of every Vietnam culinary tour, but no trip to Hanoi can be complete without sampling the iconic cha ca, which is superb enough to have a street in the Old Quarter named after it.
While touring the capital city of Vietnam, try these famous foods:
Pho – a standard bowl of pho consists of warmly piced beefy broth, a handful of flat rice noodles, a modest amount of beef, and a heap of greens. For the most authentic pho, opt for Pho Bat Dan on Bat Dan Street. Pho Thin on Lo Duc Street is a recent addition to this rich culinary landscape, but the flavor has been altered a lot.
A standard bowl of Hanoi pho (Source: Internet)
Bun cha - The most common dish for lunch in Hanoi. Each serving of bun cha comes with cold vermicelli noodles, char-grilled flat meat patties, fresh herbs and a bowl of sweet and sour dipping sauce. Bun Cha Huong Lien at 24 Le Van Huu is one of the places to head to for an excellent serving of bun cha.
Bun cha with dipping sauce and meat patties (Source: Internet)
Cha ca – Pho may have altered slightly as different regions in Vietnam adopt and customize it to suit their taste, and no version of the dish is less captivating than the other, but the same thing is not true for cha ca. Without the herbs and spices that are native to the rural areas around Hanoi, accompanied by the aesthetics of Hanoians, cha ca will lose all of its its outstanding features. The best Cha ca can be found at number 14, Cha Ca Street.
Cha ca La Vong (Source: Internet)
Everything produced in Cao Bang proudly has roots in the richness of the land. As home to the Tay ethnic hill tribe, Cao Bang’s culinary art is characterized by the tribe’s culture. If one has grown familiar with Hanoi’s foods, the iconic dishes of Cao Bang may feel otherworldly.
Cao Bang’s extensive river and forest environments provide a wide range of exotic ingredients and spices, so get familiar with with some of the well-known dishes before you go:
Vit quay 7 vi: this can be translated into “7 flavor roasted duck”. The dish is best eaten at the East of Cao Bang. A medium-sized duck is marinated with fish sauce, salt, and 7 secret spices, and then it is roasted on char coal.
Cao Bang roasted duck (Source: Internet)
Banh Coong Phu: A dessert made from rice flour and ladled with condensed sugar cane juice.
Banh cuon Cao Bang: Another version of banh cuon Ha Noi with a major adjustment to suit the local taste. Each roll of banh cuon Cao Bang is stuffed with minced pork, wood ear mushroom, sometimes eggs, and bathed in broth.
Banh cuon Cao Bang (Source: Internet)
Pho chua: No traces of the world-renowned pho can be found in this Cao Bang’s version. Pho chua is built from the bowl up. A handful of flat rice noodles are laced with crispy-edged liver, Chinese sausages, and roasted duck.
Pho chua Cao Bang (Source: Internet)
Encompassing a wide variety of idyllic country scenes and natural beauties, Ninh Binh has no shortages of places to visit. But the region is also packed with an array of culinary specialties, some a little more remarkable than others.
As a land of rivers and karst limestone outcrop, Ninh Binh’s dwellers are experts in cooking goat meat and stream fish. Don’t board a plane home if you haven’t sampled at least one of the following dishes in Ninh Binh:
Tai de Hoa Lu: This dish made from goat meat always ranks top on the list of must-try foods in Ninh Binh. The goat meat is flavored with vinegar and a range of herbs such as lemongrass, lime leaves, ginger, and chili.
Tai de Hoa Lu (Source: Internet)
Com chay Ninh Binh: An unusual take on the familiar cooked rice as they are shaped into dish-sized round patties. The patties are then deep-fried in oil until crispy and golden-brown. The dipping sauce is there to make the dish more flavorful. It is a blend of tomato sauce, onions, mushrooms, pork and beef, and is served to please the eyes as well as the stomach.
Com chay Ninh Binh (Source: Internet)
Canh chua ca ro: You may be familiar with sour soup from your Vietnam culinary tours, but Ninh Binh’s version is unlike anything you have ever tasted. Small anabas is simmered with pickled mustard greens to remove the fishy smell, and then tomato wedges are added to balance all the flavors.
Canh chua ca ro
Located in one of the remote parts of Vietnam, Dien Bien is the hub for exotic foods and magnificent hiking trails. Dien Bien’s cuisine is a fusion of different cultures and boasts extravagant explosions of flavors.
Dien Bien is surrounded by towering ranges of mountains and is rather isolated, so its cuisine is distinct and develops in the direction of its own nature. Some of the highlights are:
Pa Pinh Top: This cultural dish of the Thai tribe takes only the locally-sourced fares. In-stream fish are marinated with salt, spring onions, coriander, chili, and mac khen (Thai tribe’s pepper). The fish is then char-grilled until golden-brown.
Pa Pinh Top (Source: Internet)
Xoi ngu sac: As Dien Bien is famous nationwide for producing the finest rice, the town has no shortage of specialties made from this staple. Xoi ngu sac comprises of sticky rice that is cultivated on the cascading terraces of Dien Bien and takes its colors from five different types of leaves and flowers that are native to the forests and meadows of the region. While other regions rice tends to get dry and harden as the result of long exposure to air, the rice of of Dien Bien can remain soft for days after being cooked without going bad.
Xoi ngu sac (Source: Internet)
Thit trau gac bep: The Vietnamese version of beef jerky that takes buffalo meat, mac khen (Thai tribe’s pepper), lemongrass, garlic, and chili as the main ingredients. The buffalo briskets are smoked for days until thoroughly cooked. This dish is so well-known that other regions have attempted to mimic the recipe to create their own versions, but nowhere else can you find the distinct flavor that characterizes Dien Bien buffalo jerky.
Thit trau gac bep (Source: Internet)
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long is where the quality of food rivals with the spectacular scenery. Since Ha Long is a coastal city, its menu tends to lean towards the seafood side. With Vietnamese people’s knack for turning humble ingredients into something remarkable, Ha Long cuisine is no less mouthwatering than what you find in Hanoi.
While journeying the city, don’t forget to sample at least one of the following dishes:
Cha muc Ha Long: To make this iconic dish of Ha Long, locally-sourced squid is minced to create a fine paste. The arms and tentacles are chopped into the size of a peanut and are blended into the paste. The mixture is then shaped into flat patties and deep-fried in oil.
Cha muc Ha Long (Source: Internet)
Bun be be: A recent addition to the thriving noodle scene of Vietnam, this dish comprises of rice noodles, mantis prawns, spring onion, tomato and coriander. The broth is made by brewing the prawns with pork bones for hours to extract the maximum amount of flavors.
Bun be be (Source: Internet)
Learn more about Northern Vietnam here: